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Saturday 22 July 2017

Journalist gave Flood explosive tribunal tapes

Sam Smyth

A journalist supplied the details to the planning tribunal that led to the searing censure of its chairman Mr Justice Feargus Flood, by the Supreme Court.

Former journalist Frank Connolly supplied taped interviews, statements and notes with key witness James Gogarty to the tribunal -- but insisted on his identity not being revealed.

The Irish Independent has learned that allegations of corruption about a number of people, including a former Fine Gael minister, were included.

In his judgment in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Mr Justice Hardiman described this material as "potentially explosive" and said it was relevant to the credibility of Mr Gogarty -- putting a question mark over his evidence.

The material also included "extremely grave" claims of impropriety, the judge said, and was concealed by the tribunal "without justification".

When Frank Connolly was asked yesterday if he supplied material to the planning tribunal, he replied: "No comment."

The Irish Independent understands that the allegations included that the former minister took cash from the developer of a site in Co Dublin.

The former minister said yesterday he did not know that he was the politician referred to in the Supreme Court judgment.

He said: "I denied the allegations when Mr Connolly put them to me some years ago but I didn't know they were sent to the tribunal."

In the interview and statements supplied to the tribunal by Mr Connolly, Mr Gogarty named a source and claimed that money was paid in cash to the former minister.



Reputations

In his interview, Mr Gogarty said the former Fine Gael minister cooperated with former Fianna Fail minister Ray Burke to deliver a desired result for a development.

Among the business and professional people against whom Mr Gogarty made allegations, one of whom has since died, were "household names", according to a source yesterday.

"These are people with pristine reputations, totally above reproach, and their names would be known by most people," the source added.

Mr Justice Hardiman was scathing in his judgment about Mr Justice Flood's handling of the material.

The judge said he had "absolutely no reason" to believe the allegations and presumed the claims were false.

Mr Connolly, who was involved in a number of controversies, had a close association with Mr Justice Flood.

When he retired, the judge joined the board of the highly controversial Centre for Public Interest, which closed after Irish-American philanthropist Chuck Feeney withdrew his funding.

Mr Connolly quit journalism last year when he was appointed to the €80,000-a-year post of head of communications at SIPTU.

Commenting on yesterday's Supreme Court decision, which overturned a refusal of costs to a two witnesses, Mr Justice Flood (82) last night said he believed he made the correct decisions as chairman of the tribunal.

He said he could not remember the details of every aspect of the tribunal.

Irish Independent

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